The Québec Winter Carnival held annually in Quebec City in collaboration with Loto-Québec has existed for over 60 years. Taking place in late January to mid February each year. The habitants of New France created a rowdy annual celebration just before lent of eating, drinking and getting merry. This led to the set up of the annual winter celebration meant to create a social and tourism event that would in turn give Quebecers something to be proud of and stimulate the economy.
Over the years it has gained international fame through its renowned key figure, Bonhomme Carnaval, a living replica of a snowman. Created for the first festival in 1955 he enchants local children and has become an ambassador to all Carnival visitors. Bonhomme wears the traditional red hat and belt and appears during all the various Carnival events.
Over the years the Carnival has added and enriched its activities. The Québec Winter Carnival has become the largest winter carnival in the world today, and is third on the List of Top Carnivals after the famous Rio and New Orleans carnivals.
Bonhomme’s Arrow Sash
The red outfits, the arrowhead sash, a sip of “caribou”, various tests of strength and skill and Bonhomme’s image go back to the origins of the Québec Winter Carnival, some even further.
The arrowhead sash used as a belt to tie jackets during the 19th century to prevent cold has remained a symbol in Quebecois society thanks to the Québec Carnival. Both a practical and fashionable accessory the belt and the red hat, linked directly to Québec folklore, are the primary elements of Bonhomme’s outfit.
The long red trumpets toot through the parade circuits to encourage people to move and dance to keep warm. Dress in red, tie your belt and hold onto your hat and enjoy a Quebec City party.
The Ice Castle
In 1955 A magical ice palace was built for Bonhomme this impressive ice construction even included a dungeon used jokingly to jail Carnival-goers who refused to honour Bonhomme.
The Carnival kingdom’s palace is an immense structure taking around 2 months to build of snow bricks then enhanced with light displays and special effects. The palace is the center point for many of the Carnival activities.
Ice Canoe Races
The ice Canoe Race held since the beginning of the festival has several courageous teams compete in a tumultuous ride along the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Lévis.
Now you can jump from spectator to canoeist allowing you to experience an ice canoe ride downtown where you’ll float and paddle on the St. Lawrence River with the ice crackling at your feet. A unique experience not to be missed.
Sculptors from around the world turn Place Desjardins and Place Loto-Québec into a giant outdoor museum of snow sculptures. Snow sculpting has become one of the Carnival’s key activities. In 1973, the International Snow Sculpture Competition of Québec officially opened. Nowadays the International Snow Sculpture Competition has become a prestigious event and the oldest snow sculpture competition in the world.
Carnival Night Parades
The two Québec Carnival Night Parades have become popular events over the years. They take place during the second and the third Carnival weekends. Thousands of spectators turn out to celebrate and enjoy these unique events.
The Caribou is a feisty beverage created by Ti-Père, a business in Old Québec.
Carnival Queens & Duchesses
Each year after a lengthy process to qualify 7 duchesses are chosen to represent the 7 sectors of the Quebec region. They are assigned many tasks and must not forget that first and foremost they are Ambassadors of the Carnival.
At the beginning of the Carnival a Queen is chosen through a program based on the number of candles sold in the different areas of the city. Everyone participating eagerly awaits the Queen’s coronation. Over the years more than 12,000 women have applied to become a duchess.